Massachusetts high school solidifies state title with help from transgender girl, policy put under microscope
A Massachusetts high school was thrust into the spotlight late last month as they picked up a state championship in girls indoor track and field with the help of a transgender student-athlete.
Chloe Barnes picked up five of Brookline High School’s 63 points in the Girls 55m Hurdles in late February with a time of 8.72. Barnes finished fourth in the race and behind one of her teammates. Barnes, however, failed to make it to the Meet of Champions final later in the state tournament.
Brookline won the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association Division 1 Indoor Track and Field Championships over Newton North, Wachusett and Central Catholic. Newton North scored 5 points in the championship meets.
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However, controversy ignited this week as Barnes’ run was highlighted on social media. ICONS Women, a female-athlete advocacy group, noted that Barnes – a biological boy – pushed another girl from potentially getting into the finals in the hurdles competition. The group noted that boys hurdles are taller than girls hurdles in high school athletics as well.
The ordeal came under fire.
“Simply cheating!! This should not be allowed,” Olympian Andy Turner tweeted.
Fellow Olympian Sharron Davies agreed, “This is cheating!!”
Massachusetts officials essentially created the pathway for transgender girls and boys to compete against the genders they identify with in 2012.
“Where there are sex-segregated classes or athletic activities, including intramural and interscholastic athletics, all students must be allowed to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity,” the policy from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reads. “With respect to interscholastic athletics, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association will rely on the gender determination made by the student’s district; it will not make separate gender identity determinations.”
The Cypress – an independent student newspaper for Brookline – noted the Public Schools of Brookline’s policy regarding transgender students in interscholastic athletics, which was published in 2014.
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“Students who are transgender may participate in accordance with the gender identity they consistently assert at school. Interscholastic athletic activities are addressed through the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Gender Identity Policy (MIAA) clarification,” the policy says.
Barnes told the student newspaper at the time that they wanted to practice with the girls team but race for the boys team over fear of others questioning what they were doing. Barnes made clear they were not going to let the fear get to them as they were set to compete for the girls in 2022-23.
Barnes also had a blunt message for those trying to bar transgender athletes from advocates trying to keep biological males from competing against girls in sanctioned competitions.
“Deal with it,” Barnes told the paper. “Just deal with it.”
Barnes did not do anything illegal and appeared to participate within the rules of Massachusetts high school athletics. Whether it was fair for that to happen is another question.
From collegiate athletics to high school sports, a debate has grown over whether having transgender women and girls compete against biological females and girls is really an equal playing field.
Lia Thomas, a transgender female, won an NCAA women’s swimming championship in the 500 free last March. The debate has even gone to the doorstep of the NCAA.
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Recently, a Vermont Christian school was banned from future state-sanctioned tournaments for its girls basketball team’s refusal to play another opponent who had a transgender girl on the team.